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LEGISLATION Europe

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Agreement on a 30% European quota for on-demand services

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- European audiovisual ministers have reached an agreement for a 30% quota of European works for on-demand services

Agreement on a 30% European quota for on-demand services
(l-r) Alice Bah Kuhnke, Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy; Francoise Nyssen, French Minister for Culture; Owen Bonnici, Maltese Minister for Justice; Monika Grutters, Parliamentary State Secretay to the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, in Brussels

At the end of a marathon meeting held on 23 May in Brussels, European Culture and Audiovisual ministers finalised their version of the revised audiovisual media services (AMS) directive, paving the way for discussions in trilogue with the European Parliament and the European Commission. 

France, Spain, Germany and Italy made up the majority voice calling for a 30% (instead of 20% in the initial proposal) minimum quota of European works for video-on-demand services. The latter must also make sure that European works are showcased in their catalogues by way of tools such as banners and search tools, or by creating a specific accessible from the welcome page. Traditional television services will instead be invited to reserve a majority of their air time, instead of 10% of their schedules, for independent productions.

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The Council also supported the idea of making on-demand services contribute to the production of European works, including when these are based in another Member State; in this case, the contribution required would be based on receipts registered in the target country, whilst the host country should take these into account in calculating its contribution. Television broadcasters and VOD services will be able to choose between making a direct investment in production or contributing to national sources of funding. Services with low audience levels and turnover will be exempt. The expedience of these mechanisms was however contested by countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom. 

Although the country of origin principle remains the "cornerstone of the directive", the compromise negotiated by the Maltese presidency of the Council clarifies the rules of jurisdiction (criteria for uniting services) and strengthens the measures for cooperation between regulators when cross-border services cause problems; this is notably the case when a service established in one country targets audiences in another country. Several countries, like Hungary and Poland, want to use this to clamp down on the circumvention by certain services of stricter or more detailed national regulations. After being alerted to the issue, the national regulator with jurisdiction over the operator in question must react within a period of two months.

A qualified majority also secured the extension of the scope of application of the directive to video-sharing platforms and social networks; the directive will apply to platforms on which audiovisual content constitutes "an essential part" of the offering. These media will be subject to strict rules on the protection of minors and the wider public from harmful content inciting hate, discrimination, violence and terrorism.

Last but not least, the mechanisms on "commercial communications" (advertising, sponsorship, product placement) will be less advantageous for operators than those initially proposed by the European Commission; on the quantitative side of things, advertising may not take up more than 20% of air time, whether that’s between 6h and 18h or 18h and midnight. Films, TV series and news programmes may not be interrupted more than once every half an hour. 

A final text must now be negotiated by the Council, the Commission and the Parliament, following the trilogue procedure which will begin in the weeks to come.

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